Adversity Is Your Workout Routine

“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?”

(Jeremiah 12:5)

It’s easy to become discouraged from doing good when you see wicked things going on around you. When you try to speak truth and godly words to others and they shut you down or worse yet, make evil plans against you to get rid of you. It’s easy to become discouraged when it seems like evil people prosper while the righteous people seem to struggle. This is what Jeremiah had to deal with in his time as a prophet. It was revealed to Jeremiah that there was even a plot to kill him by people of his own city. Worse yet, we see in verse 6 that God informs Jeremiah that even his brothers and his father’s household has dealt with him treacherously. They were the ones who called the multitude after him, joining them. God warned Jeremiah not to believe his family when they speak nicely to him.

Jeremiah had a lot to deal with when doing the Lord’s work and brought his concerns before the  Lord. What he was facing, especially from his own people, brought him discouragement and exhaustion. We’ve all been there at one point or another and we can relate. It can be difficult to go against the grain and do the right thing or speak the truth when people seemingly do not want to hear it. Yet God uses these moments as a challenge to strengthen us for tougher work. God had to explain this to Jeremiah in verse 5.

If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses – if Jeremiah became weary dealing with the footmen (wicked people), how would he contend with the horses (bigger problems with those in authority). It’s bad enough to have to deal with people on the outside, but it’s worse to be betrayed by family, those closest to us, and Jeremiah had to learn how to deal with this in order to continue on. If he can handle that, which is a tough problem, then he will be able to handle even bigger problems to come. He didn’t realize at the time what he would be facing a night in stocks, confinement in a cistern and imprisonment in the court of the guard. The troubles he was having in Anathoth were nothing compared to what he would be facing later on. Yet God utilized the current troubles to strengthen him for the bigger ones to come while doing the work of the Lord.

And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” – If he cannot contend with adversity in a place of relative peace where he is comfortable and has trust in, how will he be able to contend with the floodplain of Jordan? Jeremiah took his situation much to heart. These were his countrymen and family, some whom he had grown up with and trusted. It hurt him to the core that he was hated by them and then to find out his family betrayed him. It stole his peace of mind and lowered his spirit. The whole situation distressed him and it affected his work for the Lord. They wearied him and therefore he became weary of prophesying and even thought about giving up. He had no idea that this was the beginning of worse to come. What he hadn’t realized also was that it was his preparation for weightier work to come as well. Work that would cause him to be in stocks which consist of placing boards around the ankles and wrists, confined in a cistern and imprisoned. If he thought dealing with the harsh words, plots and betrayal by his family and countrymen were bad, what he would soon experience in Jerusalem was worse.

What Jeremiah felt was really no different than what you or I would feel. No one likes to see injustice or have wrong done to them simply for speaking the truth. None of us wants to be betrayed by our family, those who are supposed to be on our side and there through thick and thin, but sadly it happens. Jesus went through the same ordeal. There were plots made against His life, He was betrayed by one of His own disciples, and His own people thought He was out of His mind (Mark 3:21). Yet, He didn’t allow it to stop Him from continuing on with mission. He knew God entrusted Him to complete what He had for Him to do and the reason Jesus went off and spent much time in prayer. He needed the strength to get it done. He wasn’t beyond having emotions. He wasn’t beyond feel hurt from betrayal and hatred. He wasn’t beyond feeling exhausted from the work. He knew that by remaining close to God in time and prayer, God would give Him the strength to carry it out.

There will always be people who disagree with us. Even more so when we speak the truth and/or do what’s right. Multiply that when the topic is about Jesus. Adversity is a part of life and how we handle it determines whether we will stand still or move forward. Whether we will remain bound or become free. Whether we will remain a baby Christian or grow into a mature one. Adversity and problems are what God uses to strengthen us and prepare us to handle the bigger problems that will come. God knew that if He was to use Jeremiah for His work, He had to prepare Him with the smaller scale problems in facing his countrymen and family. It may sound like a big problem to us, but compared to what Jeremiah would be going through in the future, it was on a smaller scale. God had to make it clear to Him that if he plans to do God’s work, Jeremiah was going to have to get past the negative remarks, betrayal and the plots and keep moving forward because he will continue to face them in bigger ways. It wasn’t that God was unsympathetic to Jeremiah’s concerns and weariness because He knew what was happening to him. He needed Jeremiah to be able to get past what he saw and heard from others and to lean on God more and trust Him.

If you are to move forward in your recovery, ministry work, your job, etc, you must learn how to get past what people think about you, their negative comments, and the things that they do. By allowing it to affect you, you then lose your focus on Christ and your mission, which will hinder you from moving forward. In no way does this mean you turn a blind eye or not care. It simply means you don’t react in emotion. There were many evil things going on in Jesus’s day that He could have spoken out against daily, going head to head with the religious leaders of that time, but He chose to remain focused on His mission (Luke 4:18-19) and address certain issues with them at certain times. He didn’t allow Himself to get drawn into every battle but remained in self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Do not be discouraged when you face troubling times. Do not be discouraged at what you see happening to you or around you. Move in closer to God and realize it is something He is using to strengthen you and prepare you for something bigger to come. Always remember that He is in control and will take care of the situation. Seek His face during this time and surrender your anger, hurt, sadness or whatever emotion you are feeling that is hindering you from moving forward. Emotion is not a bad thing, but when it rises up and hinders you from moving forward, then it’s a problem that needs to be addressed and surrendered to the Lord.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,

for those who are called according to his purpose.

(Romans 8:28)